Weza Tele, do you remember them? I wrote about them here sometime back and mentioned that they were/are on the opposite of the hype cycle– a team of focused individuals who are driven by hard work and execution and are not blinded by the hype in the tech ecosystem.At the time I promised to do a follow up article especially on the hype cycle. Unfortunately, I did not get time to do it but I will keep my word and still do it in the coming days. Meanwhile for today I want to talk about the incredible news about Weza Tele’s acquisition, which will probably come out clearly and openly from them in the coming weeks.
For sometime now there have been rumors within the tech cycles that Weza Tele was acquired. I tried to get news from Hilda, CEO of Weza Tele but all she said, “She has nothing to say for now with regards to the rumors and together with her team they are focused and excited on the new opportunities this year”.
Weza Tele have remained tight lipped about the story and even in some occasions came out to deny it. So for the last few months we carried our investigation and aim of finding out the truth behind the rumors. And today I can confirm that indeed Weza Tele has been acquired for more than Ksh.154 Million (Around US$1.7) by AFB. The reason why the guys at Weza Tele were not and are still not willing to speak about it is because they are taking their time ensuring smooth integration with AFB as they continue to do what they do best- remain focused in execution mode and doing great things. And my sources tell me that they will officially make the announcement in the coming weeks. Hence lets wait for the news to come from the Weza Tele team themselves when they are ready.
Ok..let me pause there, yes, this is huge. No, I am not talking about money which is very good by the way but I am looking at it in terms of what it represent for the Kenyan start-ups. You remember the careless talk of Kenya having fluffy start-ups and NGOs spoiling the space. Weza Tele is a clear testimony that there is not only hope but there are many great start-ups in Kenya but most people are carried away with hype, which for sometime been led by the same people now complaining about it. The greatest thing about Weza Tele story is that it has ticked all the boxes required for a successful start-up… Here is what I am talking about:
1. Provided value add enterprise platforms that solved real problems- Check
Kenya and Africa have many problems but not many people are coming up with clear cut solutions. Many people are trying to sort out First world problems while living in the third world country…and their ideas and solutions end up in the dustbin because people in the first world countries have inherent advantage which allow them to do it better. Weza Tele set a record in developing value mobile enterprise solutions and platforms and integrated with existing systems across MNOs and partners. Their business model was not about making quick money from apps, it was more than providing relevance and scale.
2. Hard Working and focused Founders. Got out their way to acquire customers/clients. -Check
Most Kenyan start-ups spend all their time dreaming of getting funding instead of going out to look for customers. Not bad to get funding but at the end customers are everything. I have always admired people who operate in Gikomba market, you go to that market and people there would do all they can to sell to you. Compare that to the reception you get when you meet guys at the Nailab or iHub.. All feeling extra good for nothing. The Weza Tele guys, were different. They moved out of the incubation spaces when their time was up and moved to their own office space across the road, where they focused as a team and their customers started seeing the seriousness in them and gave them business. They knocked doors and were not afraid to chase big customers and partners to the likes of AFB, Johnson & Johnson, IBM and many others as listed on their website under the customers and partners section.
3. Offer superior quality product and superior customer service – Check
Just an example, whenever Safaricom come up with something, there is always a big cry, the feeling of doom for those within that industry. I remember when they started doing domain and hosting, it was like the end of the people doing hosting, then they came up with Lipa Rent na Mpesa and the cry was even louder, and there are many more examples from other companies too. The thing people don’t realize is that some of these companies are spreading themselves thin doing what is called Horizontal Integration /being all over. Start-ups on the hand have the chance to do Vertical integration, and in the process do it better than any other person in the same space.. Weza Tele is a great example of a startup that diversified and spread their wings by looking both vertical and horizontal integrations, giving them a chance to learn a lot and explore new opportunities across Africa.
4. No faking it, just represent what it is- Check
You have heard the phrase “fake it until you make it”. The problem with that phrase is that the people advocating for it forget the other phrase “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”. If you want a nearby example then look closely at Heshan de Silva. Since I met the Weza Tele founders while they were being incubated Nailab, they have remained real in their execution, delivery and focus. They do not try and promise what they cannot achieve or play the hype game.
Weza Tele took local capital
I have always said that the day the rich local money men would start investing in the local start-ups is the day the Kenyan tech space will take off. I know it is great to have the foreign investors coming in but in the real world it is not enough sustain the ecosystem. That is why Joe Mucheru is a star whose lead should be followed by many. Joe Mucheru invested in Weza Tele three years ago, and his input on the business has been a major driving factor towards their success . The thing with the Joe is that he is not so called money men whom I have mentioned above, but he understands the start-up culture and spotted the right place to put his hard earned money. At the end it has validated what most of us have been saying for sometime, that tech start-ups can be profitable if the local investors put in their money and expertise.